We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusAug. 17, 2020NOT STARTED
Previous StatusJune 15, 2020NOT STARTED

Why “Not Started”

Since the onset of COVID-19, 4 provinces – BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec – have demonstrated what their positions are on the concepts embedded in the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius: Aboriginal rights and title and Indigenous laws and traditions are secondary to provincial ownership and control of resource extraction even when it jeopardizes the health of Indigenous people. The exception: Manitoba Hydro successfully concluded an agreement with the First Nations communities impacted by the Keeyask Hydro project on how to proceed.

Not a lot of progress on this C2A within any jurisdiction although the federal government has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius through Minister of Crown Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May, 2017. No formal, legislative repudiation, however, or details on how governments(s) will reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a minor step in deciding to rename “Discovery Day” after consultations with Indigenous governments.

Significant Changes and Deletions on official federal government website:

  • Changed “we will create” new legislation and policies to “we will consider” new legislation and policies”.
  • Deleted reference to Bill C-262 “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples

Feb. 22, 2017 – Prime Minister Trudeau announced the review of laws and policies related to Indigenous Peoples. The Working Group of Ministers responsible for the review will:

  • examine relevant federal laws, policies, and operational practices to help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights;
  • adhere to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
  • support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

The Working Group will work with Indigenous leaders, youth, and experts on various legal and policy questions relating to Indigenous Peoples. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, will chair the Working Group, which will comprise six ministers who have significant responsibilities for the relevant statutes and policies to be reviewed.

  • Supported by the Privy Council Office, the working group will comprise:
    • The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
    • The Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
    • The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (Chair)
    • The Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health
    • The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
    • The Hon. James Gordon Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

What is the status of the Working Group? The Hon. Jody-Wilson Raybould and the Hon Jane Philpott are no longer members of the Liberal Party. The Hon. Domenic LeBlanc is now President of the Privy Council. The Hon.Jean-Yves Duclos is now President of the Treasury Board.

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is committed to renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

In May 2017, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Government of Canada publically stated: “The Doctrine of Discovery has no place in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.” Further, in 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the concept of terra nullius never applied in Canada, as confirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, the government will consider new federal legislation and policies to formalize the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, including the right of self-determination and the inherent right of self-government.

The following measures have been undertaken since 2015:

  • endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and committed to its full implementation
  • established the Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples whose work is now being built upon by the new Cabinet Committee on Reconciliation
  • adopted and released the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples
  • adopted new strategies to pursue negotiation rather than litigation as the preferred path to resolve disputes, including the release of the Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples
  • worked with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to co-develop and advance shared priorities 

Building on these initiatives, the Government of Canada will continue to explore additional ways to address Call to Action 47.

Significant Changes and Deletions on official federal government website:

  • Changed “we will create” new legislation and policies to “we will consider” new legislation and policies”.
  • Deleted reference to Bill C-262 “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples